What are the best Illinois public school districts in 2017?

July 13, 2017

Illinois’ school funding issue is no secret. We’ve followed the story here at Reboot Illinois extensively and it looks like we’ll continue to have our hands full. Even though the state approved its first budget in more than two years, a cohesive school funding formula continues to elude Illinois and hurt public school districts in the process.

Still, even with this enormous question mark, Illinois has some high-quality public schools. According to U.S. News and World Report, Illinois’s public school system is ranked 20th in the country. They rank the top 10 public schools in the nation as:

  1. Massachusetts
  2. New Jersey
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Connecticut
  5. Maryland
  6. Nebraska
  7. Washington
  8. Iowa
  9. Utah
  10. Virginia

Schools are a huge factor when it comes to deciding where to settle down and start a family. As Time magazine points out, many people make their decision solely based on whether the public school districts they’re looking at are private or public, a mistake that could make the difference. Time’s Andrew J. Rotherham writes: “There are terrific and lousy schools in the public, private and (publicly funded) charter school sectors, so relying on labels alone is a big risk.” Rotherham says parents should ask to observe a class to see how teachers treat students and to keep the research to a minimum.

That’s where this list comes in. Niche compiled the top public school districts in Illinois so you don’t have to tear your hair out looking at countless websites with iffy information. Niche based its list on several factors like teacher quality, diversity, resources and facility as well as clubs and activities. Niche looked at test scores, parents and student reviews and data from the U.S. Department of Education and test scores to solidify their list.

We’ve narrowed down the top 25 of the Illinois district list to make your life even easier. So, as the kids get older and it’s time to make that tough decision, make sure you check back here for these rankings to help you make up your mind.

25. Maine Township HIgh School District No. 207

Park Ridge, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A
  • Academics: A-
  • Teachers: A
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A
  • Food: A-
  • Diversity: A
  • College Readiness:  A+
  • Health & Safety: B+
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “Maine Township High Schools offer a wide variety of extracurricular activities, including an array of sports as well as a multitude of student run clubs. Most teachers are very well educated. One specific department that could use improvement is the math department. The schools offer many college resources, including helpful councilors and college preparation teachers. In addition to those resources, the schools offer labs and extra help in almost all subjects, which is a huge plus. However, the schools are not very diverse. The district pulls kids from mainly white areas, and mostly european culture is displayed throughout the school. The schools all are very accepting of different race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. The schools themselves all have student bodies that are very involved in school spirit. As for facilities, they could use updates, as well as more pest control. The cafeterias all offer breakfast, but there aren’t a ton of healthy food options.”

 

24. Batavia Public School District 101

Batavia, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A
  • Academics: A
  • Teachers: A
  • Clubs & Activities: A-
  • Administration: B+
  • Food: A-
  • Diversity: B-
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A
  • Sports: A
  • Resources: B
  • Niche user review: Overall, there is a wide variety of students within the diverse student body: there are the artsy kids, the athletes, the nerds, and “hodge podge” students too. However, the kids are the ones who make Batavia so unique! I feel that everyone fits in at Batavia, and our acadamics are phenomenal! The academics tend to be overall easy, however this may be due to the fact that plenty of the students seek a challenging and rigorous academic experience, and are always wanting a further representation of this in their claswork. The only flaw I find within the Batavia school districts is how falsely diversity is embraced. What I mean by this is that there is almost a visage of diversity, and people act as if they support certain social groups (i.e. LGBT, religions, etc.) when in reality, they most-likely make friends with only those who fall under their social standards. Besides this, Batavia is a very prestigious schooling system.

23. Community Unit School District No. 201

Westmont, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A
  • Academics: A
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A
  • Administration: A
  • Food: A
  • Diversity: A-
  • College Readiness: A
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: B+
  • Resources: A-
  • Niche user review: “I have a Autistic son, and there is no school district around who works harder for, or cares more about the kids with special needs”

22. Lincoln Way Community High School District No. 210

New Lenox, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A
  • Academics: A-
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A+
  • Diversity: C-
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “My experience at Lincoln Way Community High School District 210 has been phenomenal so far. My school has provided me with many opportunities to be successful and to enjoy myself while doing so! Overall it has many extracurriculars to get involved with, and amazing staff who are always brightening the environment.”

21. Lisle Community Unit School District No. 202

Lisle, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A
  • Clubs & Activities: B
  • Administration: B+
  • Food: A-
  • Diversity: A-
  • College Readiness: A
  • Health & Safety: A
  • Sports: C+
  • Resources: A
  • Niche user review: “It was nice to grow up in a small town with people that I went to school with from preschool to senior year. The district pushes for academic excellence and has an excess of money. They had special programs for every child and I had no complaints about the district until I got to the junior high school. I disagree with the way most schools do a lot of things disciplinary wise, but that is something that is not easy to change. That was about the point where I realised that school were all about getting good grades, not learning anything important. That’s not really the school’s fault, but it is the culture of high school across the nation.”

20. Consolidated High School District No. 230

Orland Park, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A
  • Clubs & Activities: B
  • Administration: B+
  • Food: A-
  • Diversity: A-
  • College Readiness: A
  • Health & Safety: A
  • Sports: C+
  • Resources: A
  • Niche user review: “The school system in district 230 is absolutely incredible. It prepares you in ways that you don’t appreciate until years after graduation. I still look back on the lessons my teachers taught that not only helped with succeeding in the classroom, but lessons that helped me overcome personal struggles outside of the classroom. The teachers, faculty, advisers, and coaches all create a home away from home. I will never forget my experience at this school. “

19. Township High School District No. 113

Highland Park, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A
  • Diversity: C+
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “The amount of pressure on students to succeed and do well is a lot. And a lot of the times students end up teaching themselves because the teachers are failing to help outside of class which is frustrating. “

18. Dunlap Community Unit School District No. 323

Peoria, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A
  • Clubs & Activities: B+
  • Administration: B-
  • Food: A-
  • Diversity: B
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: B+
  • Sports: B+
  • Resources: B+
  • Niche user review: “Dunlap High School is excellent. Academics are amazing, and great emphasis on the arts and special needs. Sports are up and coming – wishing they would put a bit more emphasis there.”

17. Grayslake Community High School District No. 127

Grayslake, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A
  • Administration: B+
  • Food: A+
  • Diversity: B+
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “Grayslake Central has an amazing set of teachers, and the students thrive off of that and are able to become very successful academically. Every effort has been made to encourage students to challenge themselves by taking Honors and AP classes. As a student I feel very safe at this school, and have never really seen anything that gives cause for concern. The only thing that could be better is the help given to students to help them understand the move to college. When I was a junior, I felt that I lacked a lot of information about the transition. While we were given things like financial aid seminars, I felt the school could have gone beyond that to explain the entire process, so students and families who were experiencing this for the first time knew what to expect beyond FAFSA. Overall though, a great school with a great environment to become successful in. The school’s staff genuinely want to help the students be the best they can be, both academically and in the community.”

16. Township High School District No. 211

Palatine, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A+
  • Diversity: A+
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: B
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “District 211 is known for its academics; in comparison to other high school districts, District 211 is more academically challenging. It was a good experience being a students attending District 211 schools. There is a lot of diversity, and with diversity comes acceptance and learning experiences from an expanded perspective. The resources are not very well distributed amongst the schools, but it seems like the district is trying to distribute more equally. The teachers are supportive and well-prepared to equip students to become college-ready.”

15. Community School District No. 99

Downers Grove, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A
  • Diversity: A-
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “Overall, I like the school district, there’s nothing particularly bad to say. As I’m finishing my junior year, I’ve had a pleasant three years in high school. These past three years, I’ve made more friends, become more outgoing, and gotten involved in more activities. I also am on the lacrosse team, which is combined of students from both North and South. It allowed me to meet even more people and I got to know more about North and explore that campus more, as I go to South. I’m glad I get to spend my high school career in this district”

14. St. Charles Community Unit School District No. 303

St. Charles, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A
  • Administration: A-
  • Food: B+
  • Diversity: B-
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A
  • Sports: A
  • Resources: A-
  • Niche user review: “District 303 is an affluent district, and provides a generally excellent education to its students. Like any school district, however, some students are academically gifted and some are not. D303 provides Honors and AP opportunities for the college bound. Teachers are very good, and I’ve had about 5 that have inspired me to become a teacher myself! The high schools offer a WIDE variety of clubs for anyone to get involved in. School culture varies widely depending on the high school. St. Charles East is more culturally diverse, whereas St. Charles North is more homogeneously white. East has an older facility and North is newer. North focuses more on academics and East focuses on sports.”

13. Elmhurst School District No. 205

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A-
  • Food: A+
  • Diversity: B
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: B
  • Niche user review:
    “The administrators of district 205 pass the buck and expect to get paid a big salary; yet they choose to let go of great teachers . They don’t want to pay them a competitive salary and they leave. They should reduce administrator salaries. Food is horrible at York – They believe pop tarts and hot pockets are healthy food. Let’s give them processed hydrogenated chemicals chemicals instead. The staff’s only focus are test scores, NOT about the quality of teachers. I’d say about half of the teachers actually teach. There are some really great teachers at York but there are some really bad ones too and the administration chooses not to do a thing about it. They’ve dropped the ball on so many things, I could go on and on. Yes they have great success at college readiness but the level of stress and pressure they put on the kids is ridiculous.”

12. Geneva Community Unit School District No. 304

Geneva, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A
  • Food: A-
  • Diversity: C+
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A
  • Sports: A
  • Resources: A-
  • Niche user review: “Great High School! Not very diverse, but the teachers are excellent. Academics are always great and they are taken very seriously. Varsity sports are a big deal. Our teams always do well and are competitive every year.”

11. Lake Zurich Community Unit School District No. 95

Lake Zurich, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A
  • Administration: A-
  • Food: B
  • Diversity: B-
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A
  • Sports: A
  • Resources: A-
  • Niche user review: “LZHS has been a great experience for me. I have been given a great education with challenging courses yet rewarding. The staff is very personable and they all want the students to succeed and go onto some type of education post graduation. The student body is very supportive of each other. It does not matter if you are in sports, drama, art, etc everyone is there encouraging you to work to your potential. I really have enjoyed attending a smaller high school. My graduation class is 496 students which has given me the opportunity to get to know most of the student body in my grade and we are all very close with each other.”

10. Township High School District No. 214

Arlington Heights, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A+
  • Diversity: A
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “D214 is a great learning atmosphere for all ages freshman through senior. It provides wonderful learning opportunities and extra-curricular involvement to every background, and the teachers are some of the best providing a rigorous yet inviting way of teaching. To improve the district, some of the teachers need to take his or her jobs more seriously, but the opportunities for involvement in the schools are unmatched in other districts. Overall a wonderful district, but the administration cannot allow unqualified teachers to instruct learning practices.”

9. Community Unit School District No. 200

Wheaton, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: B+
  • Diversity: B+
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A
  • Niche user review: “District 200 had its ups and downs. Overall, after experience K-12th grade there, I would want my own future children to go through their system as well. “

8. Niles Township Community High School District No. 219

Skokie, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A+
  • Diversity: A+
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “What is most appealing about the Niles Township District is definitely its diversity. Some even say that it may be the most diverse district in the state of Illinois! Attending a large high school representative of so many cultures has made me more open-minded, accepting, and interested in the identities of my fellow classmates. Academically, the school provides so many opportunities. The school adheres to the individual needs of every student, ranging from special education to advanced placement level students. Overall, it is a great school.

7. Indian Prairie Community Unit School District No. 204

Aurora, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A
  • Diversity: A
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A
  • Niche user review: “Throughout my schooling years at the Indian Prairie District (High School only), Neuqua Valley was a typical learning experience and environment, nothing great, nothing terrible. I’ve also seen the elementary and Middle schools because of my siblings. The schools are clean and my brothers come home with brains full of knowledge. I think District 204’s schools are above average, however I’d like to see more involvement in the artistic and technological side of the schools programs. Since I was involved in art, I found the schools money more focused on sports, building new tracks and basketball courts when some of that money should be spent on new computers or better supplies for art and film students. High schools are support to prepare you for college, right?”

6. Naperville Community Unit School District No. 203

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A+
  • Diversity: A-
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “As a student of Naperville Community School District 203 since 1st grade, I have grown immensely with the numerous extracurricular and academic activities. Beyond this, I have learned the art of interpersonal skills and have established phenomenal relationships with teachers that I have learned to respect and trust. A highly welcoming environment, this district has truly proven that they have a genuine interest in trying to provide the best possible education for its students across all grade levels.”

5. Glenbrook high Schools District 225

Glenview, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A+
  • Diversity: B+
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “Glenbrook North High School has been my home away from home for the last three and a half years and I couldn’t be more thankful. The teachers, coaches, and administrators have been there for me and my peers to the ninth degree whether that be for support/guidance or just a friendly face to say hi to and converse with. My grade especially has been faced with great adversity my three and a half short years, and Glenbrook North has done nothing but aid us in the correct ways. The welcoming arms and kind words is what makes me enjoy school as well as want to keep showing up day after day; which is hard to come by with high schools around the area and country. I couldn’t imagine my high school career taking place anywhere else but the halls of Glenbrook North, because I simply wouldn’t be the student, athlete, peer, and person without the unbeatable support system that fills the school.”

4. Hinsdale Township High School District No. 86

Hinsdale, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A+
  • Diversity: B+
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “Hinsdale Central is by far one of the most challenging public high schools in the state. Some of my classmates who were transfer students from other schools got straight As there. They now are getting straight Bs with some Cs. Part of this reason is due to the school’s emphasis on honors and AP classes Another reason is due to the way certain classes are taught and certain teachers’ teaching abilities. Most kids at Hinsdale Central will tell you that the science department is terrible. There are classes where a fifth of a class will have the same tutor for the subject. Apart from science, the school’s academics are great. Over 200 students are inducted into NHS and over 40 students get into Ivy Leagues and top 20 schools each year. School spirit is strong at school and it’s a great school for athletes. The school has some diversity, but most minority students do not live in Hinsdale.”

3. Barrington Community Unit School District No. 220

Barrington, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A
  • Food: A
  • Diversity: B+
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “The best district!!!! Academic life full of fun, athletics, clubs & activities!!!!the teachers are very helpful, full of energy,& life. They are very patient and proud to work for this district.Their continuous effort make students very ready for college academically and socially.The sports are keeping the athletes on their toes because the organization & team effort is reaching perfection! Students learn discipline & perseverance, self-confidence and altruism! The administration is excellent! Always working hard hours to have the students safe & make them happy!!!Parent involvement can not be any better!!!!congratulations district 220!”

2. New Trier Township High School District No. 203

Northfield, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A-
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A
  • Diversity: C
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A-
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “I have cherished all of the club opportunities at New Trier. Since sophomore year, I have joined at least four service clubs and as a senior I became apart of the social service board and became a leader of a club I had been going to for three years. There are so many other ways to get involved at my school as well such as being in ELS Club (helping students with special needs) or high five choir. I also played tennis for four years. Our athetlix teams are very competitive but a great way to make friends and have fun. In all New Trier has great extracurriculars that offers something for everyone. The academics are also outstanding! Our teachers are great and make class exciting and interesting everyday. But if I could change one thing, it would be to have a different schedule every other day instead of taking the same classes everyday of the week.”

1. Community High School District No. 128

Vernon Hills, IL

  • Overall Niche Grade: A+
  • Academics: A+
  • Teachers: A+
  • Clubs & Activities: A+
  • Administration: A+
  • Food: A+
  • Diversity: B
  • College Readiness: A+
  • Health & Safety: A+
  • Sports: A+
  • Resources: A+
  • Niche user review: “D128 (Libertyville and Vernon Hills High School) is the best public school district in the state and among the most prestigious public high school districts in the nation. In terms of quality of academics, teachers, and college readiness, it doesn’t get much better. There are endless resources to get you connected to colleges and scholarships. The school brings in admissions counselors from schools across the country whether it be good ol’ Illinois State or UC-Santa Barbra and has faculty dedicated to walking you through the College search process. No surprise it boasts a 99% of graduates enrolling in 2/4 year schools or military.”
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